A new report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says parent behavior training (PBT) is the most effective way to treat children under age 6 who are considered “at risk” for developing ADHD.

The report adds, however, that a major barrier to the success of the intervention is the issue of “drop outs” – parents dropping out of the therapy programs designed to teach them how to manage their child’s behavior.

In addition, the report notes that although medications such as methylphenidate and atomoxetine have been found to be safe and effective for controlling ADHD symptoms and improving behavior in children older than age 6, for those who are younger, the picture is not as clear.

Methylphenidate has been used since the 1950s to treat disruptive behavior, and by 1999, approximately 11 million prescriptions for Ritalin – one of the brand names under which the medication is sold – were written annually in the United States. Another six million prescriptions were written for amphetamines, another type of medication in the stimulant class used to treat ADHD, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Atomoxetine, (sold in the U.S. under brand name Strattera) has come into use since 2003.

The report is called, “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Effectiveness of Treatment in At-Risk Preschoolers; Long-Term Effectiveness in All Ages; and Variability in Prevalence, Diagnosis, and Treatment.”

It’s the latest review from the AHRQ’s Effective Health Care Program, a project intended to help patients, medical personnel, pharmacists and others choose the most effective treatments by sponsoring the development of evidence reports and technology assessments to assist public and private sector organizations attempt to improve the quality of health care in the U.S.

Readers can find further information on the program by clicking here  or contacting the AHRQ Public Affairs office at 301-427-1241 or 301-427-1539.